Competition in North Carolina legislative, Congress races
By GARY D. ROBERTSON
Feb. 28, 2018
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — When the filing deadline to run for North Carolina's congressional and legislative seats arrived Wednesday, Democrats made good on their plans to compete in every corner of the state.
Republicans likewise found candidates to challenge incumbents in Democratic strongholds they often conceded in previous cycles. Libertarians filed for more than 40 positions.
The result? More choices for voters. Unofficial candidate filing data forecast contested elections in November for at least 169 of the 170 General Assembly seats. And 12 of the 13 congressional seats also will have at least two candidates in the fall.
Recent redistricting and energized politics in the state and nation also have helped make some intriguing May primary races.
In 2016, races for more than 70 of the 170 legislative seats were essentially over after the primary because only one party had fielded candidates.
Not so this year. Democrats said their party's candidates filed for all House and Senate seats. The same is true for Republicans except for one Wilson County House seat. They plan to support an unaffiliated candidate once that person gets the required number of signatures, state GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse said.
WHY SO MANY CANDIDATES?
Democrats, particularly in the House, have been aiming to run everywhere to put pressure on Republicans, who currently hold 110 of the seats. Democrats need to win six more Senate seats or four more House seats to break the Republicans' veto-proof majority and give more leverage to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
"It's important to stretch the field and make sure that every Republican had a challenge and to make sure a Democrat had someone to vote for," said Rep. Graig Meyer of Orange County, a candidate recruiter for the House Democratic Caucus. "That approach is good for democracy."
Woodhouse said the crowded fields debunk the notion that "somehow Republican-drawn districts are a hindrance to getting people to run for office." Republicans approved the maps last summer, although several districts still had to be tweaked by federal judges earlier this month.
More than 60 people have signed up to run for North Carolina's 13 congressional seats, of which Republicans currently hold 10.
Only the 3rd District represented by 12-term GOP Rep. Walter Jones lacks candidates from a second party. But the district's GOP primary includes Jones and two other candidates for the seat.
The 9th District Republican primary is a rematch between Rep. Robert Pittenger and the Rev. Mark Harris. Pittenger won the 2016 primary over Harris by only 134 votes. Clarence Goins Jr. is also running.
LEGISLATIVE RACES TO WATCH
GOP Sens. Shirley Randleman of Wilkes County and Deanna Ballard of Watauga County were drawn into the same district. Neither incumbent decided to step aside, so they are running against each other. Two other Senate GOP incumbents — Joyce Krawiec of Forsyth County and Dan Barrett of Davie County — also are competing for the same seat. A third person is also in that GOP primary.
Sen. Dan Bishop of Mecklenburg County, a chief proponent of North Carolina's "bathroom bill" involving transgender people, faces GOP primary challenger Beth Monaghan, who wants to make Bishop's support of House Bill 2 a key issue. The law has been partially repealed.
Three House Republicans — Reps. Bob Steinburg of Chowan County, Sam Watford of Davidson County and Carl Ford of Rowan County — are trying to make the jump to the Senate.
Former House Majority Leader Toby Fitch Jr. of Wilson County is running for a new Senate district where he's the likely favorite. Fitch has been a Superior Court judge since late 2001 but will reach the mandatory judicial retirement age later this year.
And ex-Sen. Bob Rucho, an architect of the General Assembly's redistricting and tax overhaul plans this decade, filed for a Senate district without an incumbent in Yadkin and Iredell counties. He is one of four candidates in that GOP primary.
Primary elections are May 8 for Congress and the General Assembly, as well as for county posts and district attorneys. In-person early voting begins April 19.
WHAT ABOUT JUDGES?
The legislature passed a law last fall cancelling this year's primaries for trial and appeals court candidates. A lawsuit challenging the cancellation is pending, but the law is still being enforced. A filing period to get on the November ballot for these races begins June 18.